As creative entrepreneurs we can be prone to letting our time get away from us when we’re working on certain tasks.
We often deceive ourselves into thinking that we’re ‘on top of things,’ when in reality we’ve failed to account for (and plan for) everything that’s involved in our business.
But in order to price yourself for profit, grow your business, save money, wow your clients, and stay competitive, you’ve got to have an efficient and streamlined workflow.
Here are 3 tips on how to get started:
Document Client Processes
In order to get an accurate picture of how much time you spend on each session you first need to write down every single thing you do when it comes to your clients, beginning with initial contact all the way past final delivery.
Don’t leave out any detail, no matter how small.
You can do this on a whiteboard or write it out by hand on paper, but I recommend putting each task into a separate line in a spreadsheet (such as Numbers or Excel) so that you can move things around easily later if needed.
Then next to each task, write down the amount of time it takes (on average) to complete, and be realistic. Even if you can be doing something else at the same time you need to account for the time it takes for that actual step to occur.
Here is a general example of what this should look like (yours may be more detailed and include more/different tasks):
- Initial contact – email response (5 minutes)
- Scheduling phone call and pre-consultation (20 minutes)
- Create new client in CRM software (such as Tavé or 17hats); add personal information and schedule dates (15 minutes)
- Create and send Client Welcome Packet customized with client’s scheduled dates and information (20 minutes)
- Prep for In-Person Consultation (10 minutes)
- Meet with client for In-Person Consultation (30 minutes)
- Scout locations for session (1 hour)
- Send client reminder email for session (5 minutes)
- Prepare for session – charge camera batteries, pack camera bag, pack lighting equipment, etc. (30 minutes)
- Travel to session location (15 minutes)
- Photograph client session (1.5 hours)
- Travel back from session (15 minutes)
- Download and backup memory cards, unpack equipment, etc. (20 minutes)
- Load images into Lightroom, following standardized naming conventions for your studio; cull and process the RAW images from the session (1 hour)
- Edit and retouch images in Photoshop (1 hour)
- Prep images for In Person Sales Appointment (load into ProSelect, select music, prepare product suggestions, create Artist Suggestion Sheet, etc.) (20 minutes)
- Send client reminder email for sales appointment (5 minutes)
- Prepare for In Person Sales Appointment (15 minutes)
- Conduct In Person Sales Appointment with client (1.5 hours)
- Wrap-up after sales appointment (process payment, move images to final order folder, enter information from sale into CRM, etc.) (15 minutes)
- Prep images for final order and send to lab (30 minutes)
- Place order for any additional products needed (books, frames, glass, etc.) (10 minutes)
- Unpack order when it arrives and check off that everything is complete and correct (15 minutes)
- Package client order in branded packaging/lay out for pickup appointment (20 minutes)
- Send client reminder email for scheduled pickup appointment (5 minutes)
- Greet client and present their order at the pickup appointment; finalize and print invoice, etc. (10 minutes)
- Close out client order and update information in CRM and accounting software (15 minutes)
- Write and send thank you card to client immediately after order pickup (10 minutes)
NOTE: One thing to point out is that the above example does not account for any issues that may arise, for example:
- The client needs to reschedule one of the appointments (requiring additional time and contact).
- Running long on a session or sales appointment.
- Travel time to other appointments or locations.
- Part or all of the order arriving damaged or incorrect (and the time spent having to correct the issue).
- And so on…
It also does not account for any design processes (such as album design or custom framing), so keep that in mind for your own task list.
This is merely an example of the tasks you may perform for each of your clients, but the point is to be as complete and thorough as possible; leave nothing out, and account for every little detail.
It is worth noting that the above ‘ideal example’ is just shy of 12 hours spent start to finish on a client.
In reality, it can oftentimes add up to 15-20 hours by the time you account for every single detail and issue that sometimes arises (no matter your intentions).
Evaluate And Streamline
In order for your business to be not only profitable, but also sustainable (both long and short term), it is vital to refine your workflow in a way that both maximizes the client experience with your brand as well as the efficiency in which you perform these tasks.
Go through the list you made and begin to identify where you can streamline some of your processes:
- Is this process necessary?
- How can I reduce the time involved?
- Can I automate any of these processes?
- Can I outsource one or more of these processes?
- Does it make sense to hire a part-time employee or intern?
- Is my pricing setup to account for all of my time spent with the client?
As you identify different areas of your workflow that need adjusted, make a list of the approach you plan to take to streamline that task.
In order to avoid the potential overwhelm, remember that you don’t have to do everything at once! Simply track each task and process and make adjustments one at a time.
Every little bit matters, and every adjustment you can make will increase your efficiency, the client experience and ultimately, your profitability in your business.
Block Time On Your Calendar For All Client Tasks
Before you ever even book a client, you need to set aside blocks of time for each of the tasks that you need to perform in your client workflow.
This not only creates efficiency from the beginning when it comes to booking your clients (you will know exactly which dates and times you have set aside as ‘available’ for sessions and other in person appointments so you don’t have to figure it out as you go), but it also keeps you from overextending yourself and taking on more than you can handle.
Oftentimes if you see an open block of time on your calendar, it’s likely that you think you can book a session at that time, or any other type of in person appointment.
But if you haven’t visually blocked off time to work on other parts of the client process (image prep, sales prep, order prep, packaging, client communications, etc.) then you can fast find yourself overloaded and missing deadlines.
This not only creates an enormous amount of stress for you (as well as late nights at work) but also creates a less-than-optimum experience for your client, which ultimately has a long term effect on your business, your brand and your reputation.
You most likely will not ever book all of the ‘possible’ openings you have laid out for various appointment types, and that is to be expected. You can make adjustments to your schedule each week as you see openings and use that time for working on your business (marketing, branding, education, etc.), catching up on tasks or taking some time for yourself or your family.
You’ll find that you’re never short of things you can fill open blocks of time with on your calendar, but if you haven’t blocked them off and prepared for the possibility ahead of time, your business will end up controlling you, and not the other way around.
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